- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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PounceyThe Pro Bowl center suffered a high ankle sprain in last Sunday's AFC title game and, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pouncey also has a broken bone in the ankle, making it "highly doubtful" he will play against the Green Bay Packers.
How will this impact the Steelers? ESPN.com's AFC North blog checked in with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to get his thoughts on what Pittsburgh has to do to be successful without Pouncey on offense.
Matt, give us your scouting report on Pittsburgh backup center Doug Legursky. What does he bring to the table, and how does he compare to Pouncey?
Williamson: He's nowhere near the physical specimen that Pouncey is. If you look at Legursky, he's very undersized, he has short arms, but he's tough and he's gritty. The Steelers will actually use him once in a while as a fullback in short yardage. So he can run and he can move pretty well. But Pouncey still plays lower, is always in tremendous balance and football position, and he's fluid. Pouncey is the total specimen in terms of pulling and doing all the athletic things a center can do. Legursky is not as strong and doesn't do anything as well. It's not even close.
The Steelers lost Pouncey on the first drive and still had success running against the Jets. What led to their success?
Williamson: I went back and watched the game, and I really didn't think Legursky played that well. It was masked early on. When he came in there, they were running the ball and the Steelers had a lot of momentum. Legursky didn't play poorly initially when he went into the game. But if you look at his performance from when he stepped into the game to the final whistle, he played a bad game. I don't think it was an accident that the Steelers' running game fell apart in the second half and got all of their yards early. I also tend to the blame the Jets, because they came in and looked like a tired defense. They played really high and they didn't tackle well. Don't get me wrong, I think the Steelers did a good job. But overall grading that strong running day, I blame the Jets as much as I blame the Steelers.
For those in the AFC North who don't get to see Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji on a weekly basis, what kind of player is he?
RajiWilliamson: He's a lot more like Haloti Ngata than he is Casey Hampton. Hampton right now is a pure nose tackle, one-dimensional run stuffer who needs double teams to move. Where Ngata can line up at defensive end, the Ravens can drop him into coverage, and he can play the nose. That's where Raji is now. Raji moves very, very well. He's very explosive. What's amazing about Raji is he plays every snap and doesn't get tired even though he's 40 pounds overweight or whatever it is. He can shoot gaps and eat up space. He really has it all. The difference between Raji and Ngata to me is Ngata is a bigger looking human being and he's not nearly as fat. I think Ngata also knows the game better. But Raji isn't far off. He's a really disruptive player.
Pouncey had to make all the calls for Pittsburgh, and now the responsibility could be Legursky's. How will that impact the Steelers with pass protection, blitz recognition, etc.?
Williamson: That's one thing we don't know. But by all accounts, especially for a rookie, Pouncey was tremendous at making all of those line calls and protection adjustments. I don't know how much it's going to change from a mental standpoint with Legursky, but it probably is a drop-off just from experience. You would think interior pressure, particularly with Raji, is going to be more of a problem now for sure. The three people Pittsburgh really have to worry about from a pass-rushing standpoint are Clay Matthews, Cullen Jenkins and Raji, who's going to be right in the middle. So in a way, it's not like the Steelers where you're going to get two really good edge rushers. You're going to get one guy on the outside and two coming from the interior. But there is an advantage there for the Packers.